Tristan McDonald – i-pools: “an innovative, skill-based alternative”

Social pools betting network i-pools recently launched the UK’s first real-money Daily Fantasy Racing games, with the aim of offering punters an alternative to fixed-odds markets and totaliser betting. SBC caught up with i-pools Founder Tristan McDonald to find out more.  

SBC: Hi Tristan! Firstly can you begin by introducing the concept of Daily Fantasy Racing pools and what it hopes to bring to the market?

Tristan McDonald: Daily Fantasy Racing is just one of the many formats available on the i-pools betting platforms. i-pools delivers a wide variety of “fantasy” and “prediction” games across all sports. Our games are designed to be simple and transparent but relevant and engaging for all types of players.

Fantasy formats allow players to select participants in a sporting event to accumulate points based on their performances – and the player with the most points wins first prize, the second most points wins second prize and so on.

Prediction formats run on the same basis but the players predict the outcome of key statistics in an event, such as the winner, the number of goals or yellow cards for instance, and players accumulate points for correct predictions. Again, the highest points score wins first prize and second best wins second prize etc.

We also run Last Man Standing games which we will also be rolling out for Racing – a completely unique innovation in betting. In our basic daily fantasy racing games, players select a horse in each race in the game (normally a single race meeting) and score points based on its finishing position and its odds (the longer the odds, the more points you score – so picking a long priced second or third can score more points than a short priced winner).

We also run festival pools – picking from the big races across a festival such as Cheltenham or Ascot, and Big Race Predictors, where players predict all the key outcomes of a big race such as winner, places, distance, number of fallers (in National Hunt), etc.

We will be adding other formats based on our very simple scoring system, including a Rollover pool similar to the Tote Scoop6 (except with a much lower administration fee!). Players can use their daily selections to place a traditional ‘acca’ bet with our bookmaker partners.

Players also vie for a monthly Horse Racing Hall of Fame, which is effectively our tipster of the month.

So all-in-all, fantasy and prediction betting formats offer an innovative, skill-based alternative to sit alongside traditional fixed odds formats.

SBC: What does the end of the tote monopoly mean for i-pools?

TMc: It means nothing else to i-pools other than that we are free to offer our products on UK Racing, which we are very happy about. Previously pools betting on UK Racing was restricted by law to the Tote and other operators that they allowed to do so, which was none (unsurprisingly).

But for the wider UK betting market it is really terrific news as punters will immediately see the benefit of competition and innovation in a tired and stifled sector of the industry.

While the Tote Monopoly was in place, Betfred was allowed to restrict other businesses from offering ANY kind of pools betting on UK Racing, thus creating an artificial barrier to entry. This allowed them to continue to take 30%+ out of their pools and to stop any other businesses developing alternative pools-based products.

Whatever happens in this market in the immediate future, it will be a better deal for customers. We think i-pools Daily Fantasy Racing offers a fun and affordable format for the less hardcore punters that love their racing. Players get a sweat across the whole meeting with a single £1 bet and you don’t need all your picks to win – just more than anyone else’s. Our objective is to offer players more fun and better value for their betting dollar.

SBC: And what is the relevance of i-pools being a social platform?

TMc: i-pools is a mix between a social experience and a betting experience. We just provide the platform for players to play against each other – akin to a betting exchange like Betfair, except you know exactly who you are playing against, like you do in online poker.

Our games are effectively “tipping competitions” between the players. Players can enter “unlimited” games, which anyone can join, or private games which they set up themselves and invite just their friends to join. These can be “heads up” (ie 1 vs 1), 10 Max or however many players are required.

Players can “tweet” or “share” their entries, invite other players by email or social media and chat with each other in each game’s chatbox. We will be enhancing our social media links in the future so that sharing games and inviting friends will be easier and more transparent.

We have no intention of trying to become a social media channel ourselves, but rather to allow players to interact via i-pools using existing channels.

SBC: Looking to the future, what goals have been set, both long-term and short- term, for Daily Fantasy Racing?

TMc: The only goals we have set ourselves are around the playability of our game formats and the quality of our UX (user experience). The players can then vote with their clicks and their deposits.

Ultimately, we believe in highly transparent and simple game formats which focus on the relevant elements of the sports and this is what we are setting out to deliver. And we are aiming to provide these in a friendly, helpful and social online environment.